Tuesday 5 October 2021

Chemotherapy was taking death to gain life

There is a delay

Five days before, I was put on ARVs and today, the Monday, 12 years ago, I was preparing for my first session of chemotherapy which was to be administered in the morning. The hours of the morning past and no one had come to collect me, I was waiting for chemo.

It was three hours later that I was wheeled in my bed to the oncology ward, the drug was attached to the cannula and the war against cancer wherever it might be in my body had begun. One hour, it took for the bag of reddish fluid ensconced in aluminium foil to drain into my veins.

Death and life in Caelyx

In my condition, I did not have an immune system to fight infection, that had been crippled by HIV, then chemotherapy was literally going to trash it completely. Even if the option presented itself, I did not have the presence of mind to reserve my sperm as this episode was going to make me infertile. I guess when your life is under immediate threat, you can’t be thinking of procreation.

Then, I was told this particular drug, liposomal doxorubicin (Caelyx) does not have the side effect of the loss of hair, not that I had any to lose. The aftermath of the chemotherapy was I felt bloated, it was considerable discomfort and It did not feel like it was gaseous or maybe I was too constipated for it to pass through my system.

An untouchable, I became

I returned to the ward to find out that they have put up a cordoned, not hermetically sealed, but it was indicative of me presenting a chemical hazard to anyone who approached me. Cytotoxicity being the issue, the chemotherapy whilst it killed cancer cells, also killed living cells and so it was dangerous for anyone to come in contact with any of my bodily fluids for the next 5 days.

Blog - A life of cytostatic ostracism

Through the 7 sessions of chemotherapy that I had every third Monday with a blood test the Friday before to determine how I was tolerating the treatment, after that, it was the complete absence of strength in the second to the fourth day and the emesis that got the better of me. It got to a point, I just could not keep my food down. They had something for that too.

After cancer to the future

Now, these have become stories, memories to recall and a sense of gratitude for having come through such an ordeal. Then I say, the medical cure of cancer sending it into remission is probably just part of the story, going back to life after cancer presents what I called the long tail of cancer. I lost everything, everything except hope, that was the only building block I had left to start life over again.

Blogs - The Cancer Tales (2009)

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